Well, I am simply blown away. And my boast is in the Lord.
When I started revamping this site two years ago in May, I didn't know what God had in store; nor what this project would do in my own personal faith. June 1 marks the completion of two years. Meanwhile, today marks the threshold of 700 consecutive Daily Prayer posts.
I remember having the conversation with God when I was trying to figure out exactly what I hoped to see this site accomplish. I felt in my Spirit, God's answer was a very simple start.
"Well, you have webpage titled "Daily Prayer". Why don't you begin by writing one every day?
My only concern was how quickly repetitious this site would become, so I simply replied, "If I'm writing every day, I'm gonna need your help."
For any one in ministry, especially full-time, if there is any ever desire to be effective for the kingdom of God, that is the first response.
Whatever you want me to God... I'm gonna need your help.
I'm constantly reminded I can't do this life on my own. My faith. My work. My marriage. My kids. My finances. My health. This ministry project.
I fail every time I attempt to do it on my own and feel to seek the wisdom and strength from the hand of God. It's an easy enough trap to fall into... you have a good day and think it can be repeated. But the first time you leave God out, can be distinctly marked as if it were a skipped payment on your credit report. (not that God is keeping that kind of score).
Nevertheless... 700 of anything isn't without notice. Yet, it pails to what churches and pastors have accomplished, both in shorter periods of time and tenured ministries. And they, like myself, still only have one response.
Moving forward, God... I'm gonna need your help.
Thanks for joining me, these past 700 days. And let us join in prayer, once again this #effectiveSunday. May today be a day of victory for the kingdom of God. A day of 700 salvations. A day of 700 addictions broken. A day of 700 marriages restored. A day of 700 families healed. May today be a day of increase, strength and wisdom for churches. Pray that we would continue to arise daily and call on the name of the Lord. May we seek His face and see His hand at work in our lives; that through our reliance on Him, He would prove Himself faithful to do His part as we continue in the plans and purposes He has placed upon our hearts.
Lord, I thank you for the past 700 days of insight
Lord, I commit the next 700 days to you.
That You do what only You can do.
For my life and this project is nothing;
If you are not first in it and with it.
For your glory, I pray.
Is it just me or are the days running together? Faster. More frequently. It's getting harder to remember what happened and when. Either that, or I am getting older. (And everybody older than me reading this says "just wait until...") I can see the comments already.
I think it was last Sunday (see my point?) that we were discussing cross-generational churches. Then yesterday on Equipped Radio with Chris Brooks, I caught part of interview in which they were discussing research on the millennial generation and what they loved about their church.
Overwhelmingly, the response that stood out, was that church was like a family. It's truly how it should be, as we are the family of God. Scripture is replete with we are His children and joint heirs with Christ and the like.
One conversation they shared was the research they were doing with a particular focus group when I young person started attributing their love for their church with the name of one man. Then everyone in the group agreed, upon the impact of this "guy". Hearing of his involvement, they were prepared to meet someone who was just an incredibly engaged young, youth pastor.
On the contrary, and quite to the contrary at that... the man everyone loved is 77 years old. He attends kids sporting events; visits school campuses, connects with them over coffee or whatever and genuinely seeks to impact the generation coming behind him.
All this got me thinking, naturally. As we the discussed the difficulty in fostering healthy families in the church if the leadership families are in various states of unhealthiness, so present is the difficulty in fostering effective community relations outside the four walls of the church, if the church body itself isn't a healthy, functioning community. The 77-year old saint being a prime example.
Thus it begs a question for all of us, myself included.
Who in the generation before me, am I allowing to speak into and invest in my life?
Who in the generation that follows me, am I speaking into and invest in their life?
Thoughts to consider, as we pray this #communitySaturday. Pray for the church community to continue to reflect the character of Christ; to reach across the various dynamics that differentiate us and bring us closer together through the love and grace of Christ. May we people that make a greater impact in the communities in which we live because of the people within the church that have invested in us. Pray that we in turn, would continue to seek opportunities to invest in the next generation; that they may continue to the good work of bearing witness to the glory of God and the gospel of Christ.
May our communities be places of health;
Because our churches are places of health;
The result of healthy homes, being led by healthy people.
For God is working on all of us
As we allow the power of the Holy Spirit
To reflect in greater dimension the character of Christ.
For the sake of the world.
"The most miserable man in the world, is not the one who is lost, but the one who is saved; and out of fellowship with God." - Adrian Rogers.
Is it possible that this statement could be any more true?
If it is not the epitome of burnout, surely it most be considered one of the pinnacles. It matters not, whether we are talking about an "everyday" Christian or a ministry leader... life happens to all of us. Life attempts to crowd out other things and other priorities in lives. Even as we've prayed for distractions and interruptions these past few days, we are continual barraged with matters that take our focus and attention from where it truly needs to be... the fellowship and presence of God.
Christianity is an intentional faith.
If we would rather not God be considered passive; One who has created us then left us to ourselves, but rather actively pursues us, then how much more should our faith be actively responding and interacting with God?
The human condition is broken.
Yet God is continuous in His attempts to bring us to a place of wholeness.
Meanwhile, man may or may not understand the fullness of the broken state, but is constantly attempting to find wholeness by any means other than God.
Even for the one who is saved, we can miss this mark... despite trying to accomplish it with Christian activity or things that revolve around the faith.
But long before Jesus called the disciples to accomplish anything for the kingdom of God, He called them to the simple concept of fellowship with Him.
So, as we pray for missionaries on this #missionsFriday, pray for those in various stages of burnout; who are finding themselves in states of frustration and distress because life and perhaps even ministry has crowded out times of fellowship. May God work the miraculous healing in the hearts, minds and souls and bring them to a place of wholeness as only He can accomplish. Pray for grace, as we are often harder on ourselves than what others place or demand of us. May there be a sense of forgiveness as God brings them through a process of restoration. Pray a return to be as intentional in our pursuit of God as He is in His pursuit of us.
That was meant to be distract, derail and destroy
Would only serve to strength our resolve
To remain committed to the things of God
To pursue fellowship with Him.
To fulfill the calling and purpose He has placed upon our hearts.
For the glory of God and the cause of Jesus Christ.
I just want to say thanks, to those of you who join us daily in praying for our pastors, missionaries and church leadership. I trust and pray this is a blessing and is accomplishing the miraculous for the kingdom of God.
In terms of consecutive posts, today is #697! I can hardly believe how much time has passed and I continue to be blown away by the perspectives I sense God granting to me daily for the next post. In fact as I reflected yesterday on the volume of posts that exist now, I couldn't help but consider the ironies of God.
On rare occasion, there's been an event or conversation that has happened days after a post, but much more frequently, probably weekly if one were to keep track, the ironies come hours and at times, even mere minutes after a posted has gone forth. It's a remarkable phenomenon to reflect on, as I have shared them with friends at certain times.
Yet no matter what it is that you are working on, distractions will come. As a friend reminded me last night, even when you think you get a few good days in, the enemy attacks.
"Oh, all is well? How do you feel about this?" (insert new problem or dilemma)
We all get distracted and thrown off task. Yet let me say this... except for in the event of certain death or disaster, where you are found to be the only source of help, there really isn't so great a crisis to interrupt you that can't wait a few more minutes or sometimes even seconds, for you to finish the task at hand. Even if you can get to a place where you can safely walk away for a while without losing your place... for walking away to deal with the distraction can so disrupt the task, that it will cost you time for sure and potentially even money by not finishing.
Whether you get thrown off in the preparations that will make a task easier or you are actually working on the task and get called away, distractions have the potential to cause disaster or at least wreak some havoc into your life. It happens in the largest of organizations, it happens in the smallest details at home and it certainly can happen in ministry.
There will always be a new problem arising that will be trying to gain the attention worthy of being put at the top of the priority list. The problem is that you will find yourself stressed beyond what is necessary, for you will continually find yourself in crisis management mode, rather than productive, getting-stuff done mode. Sure, there are days and times for crisis mode, but making it a pattern of living... well, they pay experts good money to handle that kind of work.
So, thanks for joining me again, this #deaconThursday. Would you pray for church leadership and operations. Even as our church faces some projects to take care of on our campus, some of them unexpected, others were known in advance; may God grant wisdom and direction in managing and resolving these issues. Pray for the resources to made available to implement solutions; pray for the conversations that will occur in pursuit of those solutions. Though man makes plans in his heart, may God guide the steps our leaders.
That He may receive glory.
Even in the mundane and the daily tasks.
Whether they be trite and minor
Or major and heavy-hitting,
May God help us remain focused.
On the task at hand;
To the purpose which He has called us.
I caught part of an interview with Chuck Swindoll the other day, regarding his latest book, on getting the most of the Scriptures. Pretty much from the onset, it took an interesting turn, as they talked about his childhood and growing up in the Swindoll home looked like. Amidst the description was his conveyance, that his parents rightly applied the Scriptures when it came to discipline and that it was indeed, a home where the grace of God was displayed, even when correction was a part of the conversation.
It prompted introspection even for me, to consider how well (or not so well, at times) I am leading my children.
At the same time, they started discussing the difficulty that permeated an entire generation within the church. They discussed the longevity; for how long and how quickly, for a time, parenting within the church turned to legalism and how often Scripture was not properly used for correction. Furthermore, the element of grace may or may not have been as present as it probably should have been... perhaps missing altogether. Are we missing a more effective church as a result?
Add to this, if we can, the difficulty of ministry legacy. In subsequent generations of pastors coming into the ministry from homes where parents were church leaders; how has the health of their home-life impacted how they approach pastoring? Even now, I'm trying to think of preacher's kids who, when they've stepped into ministry on their own, haven't started out working with kids and teens.
Thus, if they're coming into ministry having come for a home where the element of grace may have been lacking in matters of correction and discipline, one must consider how that will impact the next generation of kids.
I'm thinking of some of the challenges in my own home and thinking I need prayer! (insert smile)
Will you join me once again, this #youthPastorWednesday? Pray for kids and youth pastors that are struggling with ministry, because of the challenges they faced in their younger days. May God help them overcome, perhaps feelings of inadequacies or inferiorities... may their setbacks become the set-ups for their comeback. Pray God would grant them wisdom and discernment as they lead the next generation in spiritual matters and in the faith. May the pressures of a legacy ministry not weigh them down or burn them out, but inspire them; as they have witnessed the grace and goodness of God, may they be moved to share that experience all the more.
May healthy homes
Lead to healthy ministries.
That build healthy churches.
To impact healthier communities.
For the advancement of the grace of the Gospel.
For the glory of the kingdom of God.
If you'll permit me to do an extension of yesterday's Rise & Fall post... that anyone within an organization is exposed to the possibility and opportunity for exhaustion and burnout. That's the nature of continuous effort and work that is not brought into balance with rest and reprieve.
An interesting observation about rising and falling; they both of their edges. We often don't think of the edges involved in the rise nearly as much, for we are focused on the pursuit that's in front of us. We understand the risks and the dangers along the way, but it's the reward that lays ahead that usually helps (at least a little bit) in terms of balance, because we know their is a process involved in the pursuit.
Fall-outs usually have very little control. The outcome of where you could land is relatively unknown, except for the worst case scenario of "rock bottom".
We talked briefly about the importance of wise and discerning friends in this process; for so often in times of burnout, one may not recognize their exact location relative to the edge. They may have a sense they are getting close; occasionally there may be a clue dropped along the way that causes wonder to wonder if a person is in trouble. But it takes a special kind of friend to speak up and speak the truth with love.
Do you realize where you are?
Edges are danger places to begin with; finding yourself in close proximity while also being distracted, frustrated or in a seemingly sense of fog just makes the potential for disaster that much more of a reality. Being brought to this awareness should also prompt change and first and foremost, a desperate desire for God to work the miraculous... perhaps beyond what you thought you may have known was already needed.
So on that note, can we pray this #associatePastorTuesday for the miraculous? Pray for pastors in need of a friend that will speak truth and life to the dark places; for those living closer to the edge than they realize... may God intervene and bring them back from the brinks of unknown disasters. Pray God would raise up friends and people within the church that would not only have a wise and discerning spirit, but that would have the boldness to speak into the lives of leadership, not from a sideline perspective, but from a place of love and relationship. May God bring clarity to places of frustration and fog; and that even in times of great distress and difficulty, that such times would be one more element of the testimony of the grace and glory of God.
As He continues to use ALL things together for good.
For those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
As even the struggles and trials of life
Are not beyond His reach;
Nor are they beyond His ability to work the miraculous.
For the advancement of the cause of Christ.
We were blessed to have an incredible ministry organization be a part of our service yesterday morning and it is also such a blessing when they come and share the amazing, life-changing testimonies that are taking place. For their longevity as an organization and the impact they are making, pastor reminded us of the truth of one of Maxwell's primary points... "Organizations rise and fall with leadership".
As we expounded yesterday, it doesn't matter how large the organization or the church, or the family that matter... if the one(s) leading it are unhealthy, then thus under it's authority will suffer. For in all three instances, the world is set to take you out.
The world doesn't want your organization to do well.
The world doesn't want your church to gain ground for eternity.
The world doesn't want your home to survive.
Thus, any chink in the armor it can throw, plan on getting it.
Any attempt to derail, plan on getting thrown off-course.
Any attempt to distract and detour, plan for the unexpected to occur, from both left and right-field.
Who leadership surrounds themselves with, then becomes a critical matter. For those who truly your have your backs will be the ones who will speak life in a moment of solace. The conversation may hard to swallow and difficult to hear, but it takes a special kind of person to discuss the truth with others when dangerous territory is on the horizon. It doesn't matter of it's at an organization level, a ministry group or the home-front, those in charge need people will help them do well and even do better because of the wisdom and love they bring to the table through the power of relationship.
So, will you join me this day? Pray for leadership that finds itself in difficult places. May God grant them wisdom and discernment in the challenges that they face. Pray for friends, who will have an awareness and speak life and perspective into matters and areas of concern. May the words fall on hearts that will receive, even thought it be hard to hear. Pray for revelation and insight as they proceed, that God would go before them and prepare the way; for greater impact for the cause of Christ.
Thank you my friends
As we do our part to glorify God
And impact our world for Christ.
A power couple in ministry, friends of ours were the keynotes at a marriage conference down South this weekend. Their testimony is incredible, both what God has accomplished in the lives as individuals and as a couple. And thanks to the power of social media, she kept posting gold nuggets online, from her husband's teaching to the marriages that were in attendance.
When she posted the following statement, I knew it was perfect for today.
"Churches will have no effective ministry unless they have healthy marriages and families."
Though it sounds a little harsh, it's also profoundly true. Really? No. Effective. Ministry?
It is a cycle? Effective ministry should be producing more healthy people and homes, definitely. Yet, at the same time, if you have unhealthy people leading ministry, who themselves are not growing and maturing spiritually, emotionally and in their relationships, then one has to wonder what are they building?
I understand, families are work. So is marriage. And church is a given. Life is work. Work is challenging. Plus, everyone is in a difference place, fighting different battles, facing challenging struggles... life is exhausting at times. Being civil can be hard enough; let alone reflecting the character of Christ regardless of whether it's at home or church.
I'm reminded once again of the words of Jeff Foxworthy.
"I need church, because by the time we get there, I've done yelled at everybody in the car on the way there."
And perhaps before you even get out the door to the car! When we all come together, it all plays in our ability to live and lead effective ministry. Thankfully, there's the grace of God, but that doesn't mean we all couldn't stand to do better.
So, pray with me, this #effectiveSunday for marriages and families. Pray our interactions with each other, as we start at home, would greater reflect the love of Christ and the grace of God. May our homes be filled with understanding and forgiveness, even in times of discipline and correction. Pray the ministry efforts of the church would not be hindered by the faults and flaws of our humanity, but that sovereign hand of God would go before us and transcend our difficulties and challenges to accomplish the miraculous in the lives of others. May today be a day of change, for marriages struggling; for homes in trouble, for kids in distress... pray God would interceded and move on the hearts and lives to come into greater relationship with Him, being transformed and renewed in the image of Christ.
Let it start me God,
As much as it pains me to admit it.
For your glory we pray.
We are truly living in interesting times.
We live more "wired" lives, yet without wires.
We live more "connected" to the world and those around us, both locally and globally, and yet it so many ways, we suffer from multiple disconnects.
We attempt to relate and understand, and yet in times of such diverse experiences, that can be difficult. Expressing our true understanding convincingly, may fall short of our desired effect.
Then there are moments, when you're wife is headed to work a double shift and jokingly asks if you would take her place. No, honey... I already worked two 13 hour days this week (plus 3 other 11's).
As the church engages community, this is one of the beautiful aspects of the Gospel. While we may or may not be able to relate to the exact experience being shared by the one standing in front of us, we can reflect the character of Christ, who has experienced the emotion of all humanity.
All to often, one's compassion isn't understand because we can't directly relate to the experience itself. Yet consider this... is it really the experience we wished somebody understood? Or is it the emotion and the reaction that the experience brings out of us that we wished someone could relate?
In fact, most everything Christ experienced was the extreme of humanity; for He carried the sins of the world on His shoulders. Betrayal, denial, abandoned by friends, dismissed by His own community; even God the Father had to turn His head away from the Cross.
And yet so many feel and believe that not only, can't Christians relate, but neither can Christ. And how wrong they are. For Christians were themselves, dead in sin before their confession of Christ. And Christ took on sin that man may be restored with God for all eternity.
Thus, on this #communitySaturday, pray that we would be people who would greater reflect and portray Christ to a world desperately seeking for relationship and connection. May they come to a place of understanding, that connection with God is made available through the suffering of Christ who experienced first-hand, the trials of the human life. Pray today would be a day the eye-scales are removed and hearts illuminated as the mind hears the revelation truth of the love of Jesus Christ. And as we've discussed this week, may we come to place of greater trust, that God is using all of our trials and troubles to bring about good in our lives, for His glory.
For God is not one of waste.
Everything has a plan and a purpose
And in His timing,
Is all made beautiful
For His glory.
For the advancement of the Gospel.
I caught part of a sermon yesterday, not to mention a pretty incredible interview before that, that happens to be a great extension to yesterday's post on timing and how things play out.
So, the story goes that a king and his best friend went out hunting. Now the best friend is ever the optimist. A glass-half full guy, yet to be convinced to the contrary. Somehow he fails to load the gun properly, and sadly, when the king fires at whatever game they were hunting, a mishap occurs and the king loses the top of his thumb.
Our optimist best friend responds as he always does... "this is good."
"Good? How is this good? Half my thumb is missing?"
"I don't know", the friend replies, "but it is."
Surely, there must be a consequence, despite being an accident, so the king puts his friend in prison for a 1-year sentence. The following year, before the friend's time is up, the king goes hunting again... this time, in an unfamiliar region. It turns out, the region was inhabited by cannibals.
As they were prepping the king for dinner, is about the time they noticed the missing half of his thumb.
(this is still good, right?)
As the king's fortune would have it, the cannibals had a superstition; the end result being, their victims had to be whole. The king not meeting this requirement, the cannibals let him go. Realizing the gun incident from the previous year just redeemed his life, he heads for the prison. Naturally, he releases his friend, shares this incredible story and offers his apologies.
Upon hearing this great news, the ever-optimist friend answers, "No worries. It was good you put me in prison!"
"Now, I know you're crazy, my friend. How is it good that I put you in prison?"
*Herein lies the wisdom of our optimist.
"For had you not put me in prison, I would have been with you. Hunting in an unfamiliar region of cannibals. And I have my two, whole thumbs."
We don't always know how things end.
We don't always know how things play out.
Yet no matter the difficulty and challenges we face, the divine hand of God is at work.
Sorry... I took a thought break for two minutes, scrolled briefly through Facebook and Elevation Church is playing a sermon video clip. Reading the captioning, the pastor speaks...
"We always think God's presences is about fixing our problems.
But what if God's presence is about fixing your perspective?"
Well, that couldn't tie in to this post any better, could it? I think not.
As we pray for missionaries on this #missionsFriday, pray that God would open hearts and minds anew to the power of perspective, perseverance and persistence. May discouragement and frustration not be the elements that cause them to miss opportunities for the miraculous. Though the stress levels are high and the unknown, anxiety-inducing, pray the peace of God would surpasses not only all understanding, but all confusion. Pray God would strengthen their resolve to continue in the work and ministry which they have been called; to trust the hand of God even when He may not be traceable.
Confident in God's plan
Trusting of His character
Obedient to His voice.
For all that God has made,
He has called Good.
For His glory
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
.I witnessed once again yesterday, the incredible, impeccable timing of God. Some would call it coincidence or something else altogether, but literally, a matter of minutes (3 at the most) in the framework of hours and it could have been a very, very different day.
I'm reminded that God is sovereign even when we are watching the clock, realizing time is slipping away. We may be running late for whatever reason, but the divine hand of providence is in the midst of circumstances and events that you may not come up on until much later. He is ever present, knowing where you will be and when, thus even the smallest of delays and set-backs are divine moves of God.
We mistake them for poor planning on our part (which might be true).
We may get frustrated for having to wait on others.
There may be circumstances and situations beyond your control that depend not at all upon you to change.
Whatever the cause, whatever the point of stress; God is watching and moving in our lives. He is ever at work, making ways where there seem to be none, even and especially when it seems we are running late.
It matters not if resources are scarce.
It matters not if people are unavailable
It matters not if elements are missing.
Though the aggravation and stress is real, so is the hand of God in the affairs of men.
So, pray this #deaconThursday for church leadership and staff that is perhaps frustrated and stressed over the circumstances and challenges they face. May the reassurance of the Holy Spirit be their strength and comfort; that indeed God is at work in their lives. Though the struggle is real, may they be compelled to lay it at the feet of Jesus; even for a second and third time. Pray that they would commit their plans and ways to God, anew and afresh; renewed by the reminder that God has not left or nor forsaken us, nor has he left us broken in the cold. May such difficulties be divine moments for the miraculously, whereby God is glorified.
For God has the whole world in His hands.
As all was created by Him and for Him.
He has not left us to ourselves,
But actively engages with His creation.
That we may know Him
As we experience His grace and glory;
No matter what we face.
We are His.
I heard a portions of a few different sermons yesterdays, one or two of them, I think almost in their entirety. And while I thought two of them I could tie together for today's post, wouldn't you know it, the second part that I thought was good, I can't remember. Does that qualify as writer's block? Either way, it's gonna drive me nuts for a while, but hopefully not for too long.
So, the portion of the one sermon I wanted to utilize mentioned the story of the prodigal son. Of course, the parable describes how God our Father welcomes the return of one who has walked away from a relationship with Him. Sadly, it also describes the brother's reaction, which if you think it about, represents the body of Christ... those who have never back-slid or left the church, if you will. But what about the other positive influences in the son's life?
Have you figured out where this is leading?
Pastors never enjoy hearing about someone in the church "going astray". Leaving the church, leaving the faith, abandoning their relationship with God and anything having to do with the church... put your own descriptive on the event. But I can't fathom how difficult it must be for pastors whose ministry emphasis is children and teens.
Even now, I'm pondering the reaction of my own youth pastor from 20+ years ago, if he had heard that was far, far away from God. Sure, it's a heart-breaking scenario, but truly, how does it hit them? It's hard to deny the real possibility of the raw questions that would keep them awake.
Did they miss something?
Did they not spend enough time with them?
Were there not enough conversations?
Did the conversations they had not get through?
Did they not help establish a proper foundation of faith?
Was there more they could have done to help the parents?
Were the lessons and sermons not relevant or applicable?
Perhaps I didn't make as much of a difference as I thought?
It's hard to say, really. I'd love to tell you that for every pastor the answer to such questions and more that they might face upon hearing of a prodigal from their ministry, would be no... that they couldn't answer confidently, I did everything I could, to the best of my ability with every person under my ministry. Yet, realistically, the possibility that perhaps more could have been done and said must be considered. And of course, that's something that only the pastor can work out in their own relationship with God and the help of the Holy Spirit.
Regardless, such are the circumstances that contribute one more stepping stone on the path to burnout. So on that note...
Let us pray this #youthPastorWednesday, for those struggling (with however often it happens and they hear about it) with the ministry as it relates to prodigals. May they be strengthened and encouraged that they labor not in vain, even as life happens and people turn away from God rather than drawing closer. May such instances not create an opening for the enemy to create doubt, fear and instill a spirit of frustration that would stand in the way of the impact of their current ministry. Pray that if there is an element in their ministry that could use improvement (as we almost always have something in our life for which is the case) that God would grant them that insight and wisdom as to go about making the necessary changes. Pray God would strengthen their resolve to help raise up strong believers to will hold tightly to the hand of God no matter what life and the enemy of their souls would come against them.
For greater is He who is in us,
Than he that is in the world.
For we are His.
Bought with a price.
Ordained for good works,
Before the foundation of the world.
For the glory of God.
I know that what I'm about to share doesn't exist at every church, and perhaps, because of community dynamics and make-up it's not possible, but I still think it's something to pray for and a necessary component within the church to pray regarding.
For myself, we are part of what Pastor likes to call a cross-generational church. This is reflected in two ways, primarily (at least from my vantage point). The first in congregational. There's a very healthy number of "seasoned saints", long-time believers who have been active in the church for many years. We've been been blessed to have a growing kids ministry and youth group for the past number of years. And there is a healthy mix of everyone in between, young marrieds, families of all sizes and ages. Meanwhile, our current pastoral staff sits at a 60/40 split. 60% nearly fresh out of college, the other 40%, long seasons of ministry, but with young families.
What it creates from a staff standpoint, are what I can only imagine are incredible times of mentoring throughout the week, behind the scenes. New approaches to ministry as the younger pastors bring a relational understanding of the upcoming generation of the church in collaboration with pastors who have long-standing time and experience in ministry and church leadership; who are bring not only a "what works and what doesn't" element, but instilling a functional foundation of principles that will help build strong and more effective churches.
As we've prayed for associates before, knowing where to go, what ministries to be lead and oversee and interacting with church leadership can be difficult. Certainly, each ministry brings it's own set of challenges to the picture, combined with life experience and life as it continues outside the four walls of the church. Thus, while this is a cool dynamic to have and to watch, I realized it takes a balanced approach and healthy people. You understand by health, I'm talking spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. For pastors who aren't strong spiritually, healthy in the emotions or thinking that is out-of-line, this dynamic not only won't work, but can and will cause major problems. Which, I think we can all agree, the church needs less of, rather than more.
Thus, let us pray once again, for #associatePastorTuesday. Pray pastoral teams where relations are perhaps tense and strained, behind the scenes. While it may not be know to the congregation, may God work the miraculous where ministry and leadership are not functioning as they should. Pray for wisdom and understanding during this time, that healing and resolution will enter these situations. Pray for increased opportunities for mentorship, between established pastors and those that are just stepping on to the scene. May there truly exist a collaboration effect as they come together, to apply lessons, experiences and understanding to bring a stronger, more effective ministry to the communities and culture they serve.
That nothing would stand in the way
Of the advancement of the cause of Christ.
God help us to step out of the way,
As you work through those who step up to serve
As they have been called according to your purpose
For the kingdom and glory of God.
I don't know about you, but I find it amazing at times, the levels of people's confidentiality. All types of information, facts, data and stories being told and shared at various stages of leadership and authority and knowing when and what can be shared with whom seems to be the equivalent of traversing a minefield, the boundaries of which are unknown.
Yes, even this applies to church and church leadership; for many a person has been burned and left the church or even the faith, because inside the four walls of the church was an element of gossip... or at the very least, someone at some position in leadership who couldn't be trusted to not share sensitive matters.
There's a pastor who I appreciate very much, for his level of discernment in this realm. He is very cautious, even when relaying stories in his sermons, to change the names of the characters to protect people's identities. It's something I've put in to practice, even in this blog, as we fast approach 700 consecutive posts by the months' end.
What got me thinking about this? Sometimes even the best of church leadership can step a little to close for comfort. As it was shared recently, by someone other than a pastor, who got "in trouble" with his wife for what she called "sharing her testimony". Oops.
I say all of this to say, sometimes it's common sense that is lacking when people and pastors share something someone would rather they didn't. (I'll be first in line that I struggle with this, at times) Other times, it takes a level of discernment inspired by the Holy Spirit to know when something is permissible for sharing... even for the purpose of teaching life application in spiritual matters.
So, will you join me once again, this #seniorPastorMonday? Pray for a super-natural awareness of confidentiality and discernment; to know the what, when, where, who and how information and stories should be shared. Pray they would set an example to the rest of the staff and church body-at-large, to be trustworthy... not in a way that would be considered shady because of the secrecy, but neither known for gossip and transparency in matters that should not be so known. Pray for God's help, for those pastors and churches where this may be a big problem, that is keeping them from growing their church and impacting their community. For churches that perhaps have a reputation regarding this matter, may God grant wisdom as to what steps, practices and processes can be put in to place to start changing how their church is known and perceived.
For we are all in various stages of being made like Christ.
May we seek wisdom.
Instill trust and confidence.
That God would use us for His glory
May we not sabotage it through our lack of understanding.
HE. IS. RISEN!
What a great day, another year of remembrance of what Christ did 2000 years ago. It still boggles the mind; sovereignty of God who knew it advance that by giving man free will, He was giving opportunity to His own rejection. Yet, God understood then, what man understands through maturity. Relationships are a choice.
Thus, in understanding the evil that exists in the world and in the hearts of man, how can one acknowledge our broken condition yet deny that we need a Savior?
For as the lyrics go...
"If it's up to anyone of us, we'll never get out of here."
We like to think it depends on us.
We like to believe we can do it on our own.
Weakness is for other people.
Yet our own strength will fail us.
The only way for renew is, in fact, to call upon the name of the Lord.
For even though soldier standing at the foot of the cross acknowledged the truth... a nearly instant revelation immediately following the last breath of Christ.
Indeed, this was the Son of God.
In that moment, he knew his sin.
He knew he needed a Messiah.
And yet, Peter had not preached the solution. Repentance.
For there is One Savior. One Truth. One Way. One confession.
On this Easter 2017, aka #effectiveSunday, may many more experience the revelation of the Roman soldier. Pray today would be a revelation day for the saving of many souls; for indeed we do need a Messiah. May today be a celebration in Heaven and Earth, of our Risen Lord and what He accomplished for all humanity through His death and Resurrection. May we made anew and alive in Him, as we confess with your mouths and believe in our hearts, that Jesus Christ is Lord. Pray today would be a declaration heard around the world; that this season would not be another holiday turned for the commercial benefit of economy but the confessional transformation for eternity.
We need a Messiah.
And one was given to us.
Through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Who takes away the sins of the World.
For the glory of God.
It's the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. As you've traveled the roads and heard the radio, today is all about egg hunting. Like the kids need more candy. Does anybody still have leftovers from their Halloween stash? 10,000 eggs at our church's event today!!
Obviously, we all know it's not about searching for eggs, but today is an incredible opportunity to converse with those still searching for Christ... whether they know it's Christ that they need or they have a sense that a spiritual component is missing from giving life meaning purpose.
We are all on a journey, in understanding the brokenness of the human condition in light of Jesus Christ. Some of us with burdens we can not fathom carrying through this life. But when one understands the burden Christ carried...
For the past few days, I've been listening Joe Satriani's latest album, Unstoppable Momentum. If you aren't familiar with the brilliance of Joe's mad guitar skills, you are yourself a few moments on YouTube. The second to last song on the album, is titled The Weight Of The World.
As I had my stereo cranked up yesterday, I couldn't help but wonder in amazement. We carry physical loads with our bodies. We carry heavy loads with trucks and trailers. The weight of the world is astounding, before everything that man creates and builds. Life and all of it's stuff gets heavy. The physical, the emotional, the spiritual.
God holds the world in His hands.
And Christ carried the sins of the world to the Cross.
Is there a more appropriate weekend, to engage community and share the truth and power of the Gospel, that whatever burden and weight we carry, whether within our ability to manage or under a load meant for our destruction and detriment, we can bring it all to the cross of Christ, in exchange for the life made available to us through his death and resurrection.
So, pray, this #communitySaturday, that among all the fanfare, laughter and joy that will be experienced by kids and adults alike, may it pail in comparison to the revelation of the truth of Christ's life and the purpose for His time on this earth. May the great exchange occur; our sin for His saving grace. Pray the burdens of many would be cast at His feet; that through Christ many would rise again as He did. May today be a day of transformation, as the opportunity is presented for the community to come and hear eternal truth, through the whimsical fun that is a search for eggs.
For the searching of Christ is greater
The reward ever-lasting.
For He came that we might have life abundant
Through the carrying of the sinful, weight of the world.
What a wondrous gift He gave and made available to us
To those that would believe and call on His name.
There are so many potential directions to take, when #missionsFriday coincides with Good Friday. Which come to think of it, is always going to be the case, I suppose. So a number of thoughts were in prayerful consideration today, until in between playing a couple of amazing albums, I caught the majority of a sermon on the death and resurrection of Christ.
The details of his trial and what followed is just... almost to much to hear. Especially if you have a weak stomach! 39 blows to the body, with a leather whip covered in pieces of metal and sharp rocks. It's not surprising Christ needed help carrying His cross. What is amazing, was that He had the strength to carry it at all. The beating and torture with the whip was so severe, most people didn't even survive that! Less work for the soldiers, as it voided the need for a crucifixion. By the time one was on the cross, breathing was near impossible. If you weren't near death almost immediately, then you were an exception. And yet, to speed up the process, they pierce His side.
How Christ and the thieves were able to exchange words, is amazing. Add to that, Christ finds the strength to speak; more like yell, the committing of His spirit unto God.
Then the aftermath; never seen before nor since, when a person has died. Three hours of darkness. An earthquake. Surely, all creation mourned and grieved the loss of the Son of God. Yet, God recognizing the plan is complete, splits the temple veil.
The pastor describes that chaotic scene. As people come for Passover preparations, the temple is in disarray. The Holy of Holies is accessible to the public; for the first time ever! And as part of the preparation was the acknowledgement that there was only one king, in God. Yet, during the trial, the religious leaders brought political pressure by saying there was only one king in Caesar. They accused Christ of blasphemy for stating His identity, while they were at fault for declaring competing kingships. What a mess!
In his sermon, the pastor stated something incredibly profound.
In the exchange between Pilate and Christ, Pilot thought he was total control, yet had none. Christ appeared to have no control of the situation, yet had it all under His control.
Clearly... society needed a Messiah then.
All the more, we need a Messiah today.
I said this many, many posts ago... perhaps on a prior Good Friday.
The automaker Porsche, may lay claim to the slogan "there is no substitute", but when it comes to eternity, there is indeed, one and only one substitute.
The reason 3,000 were added to the church on the day of Pentecost was largely in part to the realization and understanding once Christ was dead, that indeed He was everything He said He was. The guilt of what they had done was real and fresh in their minds. They were ready to know and to hear, what, if anything could be done to redeem themselves.
Thus, when Peter laid out the simplicity of the Gospel; hearts were ready to receive. Even if it seemed all too easy, if it's what was needed, they were ready to hear it and act upon it.
The goodness of this Friday is only because of the benefit of hindsight. For those who lived this day and played a part in it, even if they did nothing; this was a horrendous day to be alive.
But a God-ordained, amazingly-sovereign day to die. For the redemption of the world and the saving of many souls.
On this #misssionsFriday, thanks for taking the time to read this extended post. Once again, I believe through the power of the Holy Spirit, it almost wrote itself and believe what's here is what God desired to be stated. So pray, this would be a day of revelation and understanding, for those who took a part in the uprising against Christ... they represent the world we live in today. A culture wanting nothing to do with Christ. May eyes be opened to the truth and purpose of Christ and the cross. Pray this would be a day that many would say as the soldier did; truly He is the Son of God. May this Easter weekend, be a time of spiritual awaking and resurrection, for the saving of many souls, both in local churches and global missions. For all the events and activities, may opportunities abound for the conversation to take place... that each of our sins tortured Christ; but Christ would rather take our place than watch us die in our sins.
That He took our beating;
Then carried our sin.
Yet found the strength to speak life
While on the verge of death.
All for the love of God.
Friday is Good; for in one death; all may live.
Abundant and Eternal.
For the past few Thursday, we've been targeting the topic of strategy, from a variety of perspectives. I'm truly not trying to be repetitive, but I felt in my spirit to continue in this realm of thinking, once again for #deaconThursday.
There's many reasons for what we experience on any given day, but in the end, are we in the place we are because of someone else or because of our self? We make choices and decisions within the parameters, boundaries and instructions that have been placed upon us by another. In that context, there is a balance to how we proceed.
Then life happens. Followed by moments of stupidity. Advanced by the ensuing frustration of said stupidity, whether it be our own or that of someone around us. And as we've discussed before, arrangements are made and remade. Strategies are implemented and changed. Sometimes it's worth the time and effort to scratch, scrap and start-over. Other times, it's best to assess and improvise.
Time is of the essence.
Help may not exist.
Finances, rarely, may not be part of the problem or solution.
It's your fault. It's not your fault. Maybe it was an accident.
Everybody knows. Nobody knows. Only you know.
Whatever, it is... whatever is going on, First Lady Abigail Bartlet, of political drama series, The West Wing sums it up for us in the three simple words:
"Game on, boyfriend."
So much may stand in the way, but one's commitment to see it through, by and with the grace and help of God is all you truly need. All that's left is to simply do what needs to be done.
Thanks, once again, for joining me in prayer, this #deaconThursday. Pray for strength, for whatever struggles and frustrations may be occupying their recent and current days. May there be a grace about their lives and hope to their resolve; to remain committed to "making it work" through a positive, can-do attitude. Pray God grant them wisdom in the decisions and directions they should take, especially when initial strategies aren't working, when resources and help are scarce and finances, when they are a part of the picture are discouraging. May there be a fresh unity of spirit among church personnel and admins, that they work together, better... to an even greater degree and depth of experience than perhaps they ever have before.
That God would accomplish the miraculous
Regardless of who and what may stand in the way.
May God direct the steps of man,
Though he makes plans in his heart.
To bring Him glory,
As we fulfill His calling for our lives.
I have no idea what was so special about yesterday, but through the 400-something miles, there were plenty of State Troopers along the highways and by-ways. Part-trained eye, part life experience; it's just a part of my time on the road... perhaps more-so than most drivers.
Towards the final miles of my day, I was talking with my friend, also in the home-stretch of his day. In discussing police presence on the roads, he shared his own experience. One of the former patrol cars had just passed him. Of course, when someone is flying up on you, you don't know that it's a former unit, rather than an active one... until they pass you. Then he interrupts the conversation with an "ut-oh"... the real deal pulls alongside, then decides to brake and duck in behind him
Naturally, we've all thought it. "I haven't done anything! What gives?" Moments later, the trooper exits. Realized he wasn't going to make it jumping ahead of traffic, so he played it safe and raised my friends' blood pressure. A few minutes later, I'm a mile from my exit. And out of nowhere.... sure enough, trooper in the fast lane, flying up. I back off, just to be on the safe side... he passes me, then gets in front of me. I watch him take the very exit I need. "Well, that was fun. Just keep going bro!"
How often we "forget", Satan was an insider. Cast down from Heaven, he has an understanding of spiritual matters. He was once part of the truth, enjoying the presence of God. He no longer stands on the authority of Heaven for whatever plans He attempts to carry out, but that doesn't mean He won't have some fun with people, having the appearance of the truth from a distance.
Satan is the former patrol car in the spiritual realm!
Much like counterfeit money, you can't fathom the innumerable opportunities for anything less than 100% authenticity and truth, except to study what is 100% truth. Thus, our relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ is just as important for the believer as it is for the pastor that is leading the believer. And if that is the case for our lives as adults, how much more to teach our children to recognize the truth.
On this #youthPastorWednesday, pray we would be and raise a church that would know and recognize the truth of God and the power of Christ. May we not be faked or freaked out over the deceptive attacks and temptations of the enemy. Pray for pastors, as they lead this next generation of the church that they would not be led away and deceived themselves. May they have a better understanding of God and His Word, that they may better instruct and model a healthy and active life of faith to all who come in contact with them. May we be reminded, that even with spiritual principles, the law establishes boundaries, yet, because of the Cross, we live under grace.
A proper respect for the authority of God
A clear discernment for spotting the deceit of Satan
Standing firm in our faith.
Having no fear of what is false.
Speaking and living the truth
For the glory of God.
Yesterday's "verse of the day", courtesy of YouVersion Bible app, was Matthew 20:28.
"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
First, it's incredible, what Christ accomplished on the Cross, as we fast approached the weekend that we celebrate His death and resurrection. There are many challenges for which, people will rise to the occasion and many more, which people will react, "not on your life", for they know it is simply an impossible task to take on with all that is within them. Yet Jesus stepped on to the world stage knowing that only He could do the impossible for humanity.
Secondly, as you know, the more I write these posts, the more things trigger the pastoral perspective. This verse was no different, for immediately I considered the times we read about Jesus stepping away. He had his times where He avoided the cross. We see Him moving away from the disciples to spend time in prayer. We see Him spend time in fellowship for no other purpose than fellowship. We see Him draw close to His inner circle; the few selected disciples who He hung out with the most.
Though His intent was not to receive ministry, I believe He understand He needed times of refreshing and rejuvenation. He understood the hardship and difficulty of ministry; for even though it formally lasted only a short three years, we see His struggle. We see the angels minister to Him after He was tempted of the devil. You can almost hear His conversation with God in the final days regarding the Cross.
"If there is any other way, Dad; please..."
Is it entirely possible that the human element of Jesus Christ was, at times, on the verge of burnout?
Certainly, He had moments of frustration in ministry, even with His disciples. "You couldn't stay awake and pray for even an hour?"
Needless to say, who knows what situation or circumstance will move a pastor one step closer to burnout. While they too, seek primarily to minister rather than receive it; if Christ understand the delicate balance of battling burnout, certainly pastors (of all positions) need take time to be refreshed and rejuvenated; both by the angels of God and the people of God and receive ministry for themselves.
Let us pray, this #associatePastorTuesday, for pastors struggling to find the balance in the battle of burnout. For those that are literally just steps away from burnout, pray God would strengthen their hearts and minds, even this very hour. For whatever concerns and burdens that are weighing them done, may they lay them at Jesus' feet, exchanging them for His light load. May God surround them with people and friends who will speak life into their circumstance and help bring comfort and wisdom to the matters on their mind. May the enemy not get the upper hand in his attempt to discourage, detour and derail their life, home and ministry. Pray a hedge of protection; that God would keep His hand upon them and revive them.
Stronger today than ever before
To continue to the work to which they've been called.
That all might hear and know
The goodness and grace of God
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
Just a man, attempting to fulfill God's plan. Husband, Dad, Dreamer. Blogger.